“Oh, so you’re into video gaming?” It’s something heard far too often. It’s said with an air of condescendence; accompanied by eyes boasting superiority over your hobby that they deem childish. It’s time for the world to realize that video gaming is just a medium like any other.
Chances are if you conducted a survey on whether people enjoy music, film, and television, the answers you get will indicate that most people enjoy a specific subset of each medium. They may enjoy pop music, romantic movies, and procedural crime dramas, but despise metal music, action films, and sitcoms.
Mediums are very diverse, yet in our culture to say you enjoy video games gets you automatically stereotyped as a violence-relishing
Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty fanatic. That these two franchises which focus on vice and violence are some of the most-popular and fastest-selling video games no doubt contributes to the public perception of the medium, but as you and I both know, gaming as a whole is so much more.
Nintendo’s DS and Wii console brands encapsulate the philosophy of a diverse medium for a diverse audience. There is a broad range of software available from Nintendogs and Wii Sports through to Skyward Sword, Resident Evil, and Xenoblade Chronicles.
Like any medium, gaming has such a range that there is something for everyone. Of course, just as some people simply cannot focus their attention to finish reading a novel, some people will be averse to the technology of gaming, but for those who can overcome such limitations, both books and games would provide something they enjoy.
It’s saddening how gaming fans respond to society’s maligning of their beloved medium through defining themselves as the ‘hardcore’ gamers, forming an elitist mindframe that labels other gamers as ‘casual’ posers.
There are no core and casual divides in movie-goers or nightly-television-viewers. Of course some fans are more dedicated than others, but to claim that any medium, including gaming, is not available for anyone who wishes to give it a go and enjoy it, is unnecessarily divisive.
Mobile, tablet, and social networking games such as FarmVille or Candy Crush Saga are extremely different to a Skylanders, Halo, or Metal Gear game which, in turn, are very different to Final Fantasy and the range of Mario titles, but all are examples of gaming and its diversity.
Our western society is far behind cultures, like that in Japan, where video gaming is widely accepted as just another medium. Our civilization needs to embrace gaming as merely a platform: a blank slate that is neither good nor bad until you make it into something. Just as there are children’s films and comedy, so too is there excessively violent films and pornography.
It’s almost as if the western masses still see gaming as stuck in the limited range it suffered from back in the arcade days. Either you’re playing a shooter, a racing game, or a puzzler. Today’s choices are far more complex than Tetris or Space Invaders. In 2014 there are as many choices for gaming as there are bands playing gigs or shows on television.
Yes, gaming is just another medium, but the interactive factor makes it have a uniquely active audience. The lack of passivity is where gaming’s strength arises, through having a more direct impact on players as they make choices and face consequences.
Each medium has its strengths and, of course, its weaknesses specific to it. As a medium, gaming brings a very unique interactive aspect. It revolutionizes story telling in ways that players can forge their own paths. It creates responsive worlds that vary based on the actions made by players.
No other medium can boast enhancing hand-eye co-ordination, reaction times, precision movement, and problem solving abilities all-in-one.
Gaming doesn’t directly desensitize us to violence and promote such behavior any more or less than what we see at the movies, on television, or on the internet. Mediums are blank until we select how we will use them. To that end, games can be beneficial or detrimental to us. They can depress or inspire; create addiction or provide release just as every other medium.
Depending on what you play and how you engage with it, gaming can be anything. It is just another platform of expression: an empty canvas until we paint it with our choice of software.